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App Store subscriptions don’t solve problems for most developers

Glenn Fleishman | June 21, 2016
While any app has the potential to offer subscriptions under Apple’s new guidelines, most apps can’t take real advantage.

The drawbacks of recurring revenue

Developers who commit to subscriptions may suffer under the requirements one has to meet. My commitment with The Magazine was to produce an issue every two weeks forever; regular production of new content is kind of a given with a newspaper or magazine subscription! An app maker who offers a monthly subscription may not be prepared for cancellation rates and negative reviews if they can't keep up with customers' expectations of new material, even if those are unreasonable.

If Apple handles these subscriptions as it does for current apps, developers may also be surprised at complaints from customers at receiving regular email from Apple in advance of each recurring charge. I routinely had subscribers ask me to have Apple stop emailing them monthly a few days before the charge went through, but there's no way for a developer to stop that email. If a user starts racking up a number of monthly subscriptions, those incoming emails will bother some people a surprising amount - some cancelled their subscription when I told them I couldn't stop these messages.

Even those who don't object to the email will react to a reminder of how much money they're spending, no matter how small - and, again, if lots of apps switch to subscriptions, there's going to be a constant drumbeat of such reminders. I wouldn't argue Apple should stop emailing these reminders altogether, but I hope it will consolidate them and give subscribers an option for how frequently and in what form to receive them. (The print magazine business still relies heavily on evergreen renewals, where people sign up to renew forever, and only hear from a publication when a credit card is going to expire.)

Apple opening up subscriptions to all apps isn't a negative: it's a welcome move that provides more opportunities for developers to chart a sustainable, consistent road forward for their work. However, it doesn't appear to have the broad impact that the first flush of discussion suggested.

Source: Macworld AU


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